Writers' Forum - August 2021





Should MFA Programs Teach the Business of Writing?

If you’ve followed Jane Friedman for any length of time, you’ll know that her answer to this is going to be YES. You can read the full article here.  What continues to surprise me is that there are creative degree programs that somehow think it is not important to teach their students how to go about ‘selling’ their work whether it is writing or other art forms. This high-minded and—yes, I’ll go so far to say—snobbish educational viewpoint maintains that art is everything but doesn’t help students find a market for their work once their degree is completed. I’ve met some very well-educated creators with advance degrees who don’t understand the first thing about how the publishing business works, and that bothers me a lot, particularly given the price of most MFA programs.

Why Adults Should Read Middle Grade Books

Tirzah Price’s article for Book Riot has an excellent quote, “We assume these books are childish, but that’s the deception: Children’s books tend to contain the same big, complex ideas that adult novels do . . . but they’re conveyed in such a way that a young reader can grasp them.” I read a lot of middle grade books and often recommend them in my blog posts. Often, they are the books that resonate in my thoughts long after I’ve finished reading. See if you agree . . . https://bookriot.com/why-adults-should-read-middle-grade-books/

5 Common Mistakes Writers Make That Sabotage Their Success

Bella Mahaya Carter writes an insightful article for C.S. Lakin’s Live Write Thrive website. Here’s some tough talk for writers (and really any creatives.) From “not believing in yourself” to perhaps believing too much and “feeling entitled to success” – these and the other three mistakes she details are definitely things we’ve all done at one point or another. Read the full post: https://www.livewritethrive.com/2021/07/26/5-common-mistakes-writers-make-that-sabotage-their-success/


Mark Dawson is a best-selling author and the creator of the Self Publishing Formula podcast along with incredibly helpful courses to aid authors in both the creation and marketing of their work.  His Advertising for Authors course (IMHO) is the most comprehensive course currently on the market. Much of what he presents via his website or his Self Publishing Formula podcast is provided for free, so you can get a taste of the professionalism and quality of the material you’ll learn before you buy into any course.

About Mark Dawson:


My first books were traditionally published. ‘The Art of Falling Apart’ and ‘Subpoena Colada’ were initially well received, but, looking back on them now, I can see that they were pretty awful. I hadn’t yet found my voice and the covers are, quite frankly, dreadful. In addition, there was little marketing or promotion and the books sank without trace, sinking my career as an author at the same time.

Or so I thought.

The Kindle opened up a world of new opportunities for writers and I got back in the saddle in 2012 with my third book. 'The Black Mile' was a labour of love. I was convinced it was good, and I published it with the hope that readers would find it and love it… and the rest would be history.


I couldn’t find readers. I couldn’t get reviews. I lacked visibility on the retailers’ stores. I ran free promotions but had no way of contacting the readers who’d downloaded the book so that I could offer them another. In the end, I realised that marketing was key: I would have to learn how to produce the book professionally and then promote it myself.

Fast forward three years - my life has changed beyond recognition.

I am now an award-nominated, multiple USA Today bestseller, with more than 20 books and over 2 million books downloaded worldwide in multiple languages. I’ve been featured in Forbes, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times and the Financial Times, as well as interviewed on national radio and on plenty of podcasts. I regularly speak about self publishing at international writing conferences.

Continue reading his biography HERE

And check out his courses and podcast.



How to Start Your Novel or Memoir and 11 Clichéd Openers to Avoid

I always read articles like this right away with the hope that I haven’t violated a writing rule and used one of these clichéd openers described by Anne R. Allen. For what it’s worth, I have an unpublished manuscript that has the main character on a plane high over the Amazon rainforest . . . so I’ve entered cliché territory there. See if you’re in the clear on these clichés or if it is time for some revision. https://annerallen.com/2021/08/11-cliched-openers-novel-memoir/

Description: The Good the Bad and the Just Please STOP

Kristen Lamb’s advice is always presented in a witty, humorous form and her advice on writing description is no exception. There are some fun examples here:

“He shoved her violently down the stairs.” Um, what other way does one shove another person down stairs?

“She stared at the sparkling, glittering scenery.” Oh, sparkling AND glittering. Good to know.

“She didn’t want to enter the huge, massive building.”

She also gives great advice on how to edit description and take out those offending phrases that detract from your actual story.


Dual Point of View: What to Know While You Write

In an article on Jane Friedman’s blog, E.J. Wenstrom helps us with the unique challenges that come when writing a dual point of view novel and answers these questions: "How do you make it clear which character is narrating? How do you fit the two arcs together? What makes these two narratives one novel, instead of two separate stories?" 

How to Avoid Repeating “I” in First-Person Writing

Louise Harnby tackles one of the main editing problems you’ll face in a first-person novel – the dreaded overuse of the word “I.” Great tips – you’ll want to bookmark this: https://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/blog/how-to-avoid-repeating-i

5 Reasons to Use One-Line Paragraphs in Fiction Writing

Also by Louise Harnby, I concur with her appreciation of the one line paragraph and the impact it can add to the scene, but acknowledge that it has to be used sparingly or it loses its impact. See how Louise suggests we use these special singular lines in our writing: https://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/blog/5-reasons-to-use-one-line-paragraphs-in-fiction-writing

Hero’s Journey Examples from Beloved Stories

Gloria Russell’s article for the TheBookDesigner.com examines the ‘hero’s journey’ that we commonly learn about as we work on our writing craft and gives us recognizable examples to help us commit each type to memory. I love these examples! 

100 Ways to Buff Your Book

In this Writer’s Digest article Elizabeth Sims examines 100 ways to buff (edit/improve/finesse) your manuscript. This is a wide range of advice that includes letting your manuscript marinate for two weeks to searching out and destroying qualifiers like somewhat, rather, a tad, a bit etc… Lots of different types of editing advice—worth a read!


There were so many Amazon specific articles this month – mostly from Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur – that I decided to bundle them into one section. Some of these are only helpful if you utilize the KDP Dashboard, but it is good to understand how this works for future books if you aren’t yet uploading books directly to Amazon in that manner.

Amazon Popularity Effect: How Amazon Treats Book Discoverability

In this article, Dave Chesson explains that “Basically, through analytical proof, we found that when a book has a rise in sales on Amazon through just about any means, Amazon responds by increasing the number of keywords that that book shows up for naturally, and its rankings for those keywords as well. Therefore, because of the increase in a book's popularity, the book would show up more often in the Amazon store.”



Also from Dave Chesson are these in-depth articles on why and how you should be adapting to the Kindle keyword structure to make your books more discoverable on Amazon. These three articles provide a treasure trove of information:

"How to Change Your Kindle Keywords and Why You Should"

"Kindle Keyword Strategy for Fiction Authors"

"7 Kindle Keywords: Use All 50 Characters or Not?"

Amazon A+ Content: What Is It and How to Use It.

Jason Hamilton writes this article for the Kindlepreneur site, examining the relatively recent rollout of this new A+ Content Feature--extra material you can load into your Amazon Sales page through a special area on your KDP dashboard. You may have noticed more information on pages lately – info about characters, story lines, fantasy worlds and more. This is a pretty cool feature that I’m very excited to utilize. Learn how you can make it work for your books here.

Written Word Media also has an article about this new feature and shows some excellent examples on how this is already being used by some authors, along with step-by-step instructions on what’s allowed and how to go about uploading your chosen content additions. Read it HERE.

What to Do if Amazon KDP Asks You to Prove Your Publishing Rights

The Alliance of Independent Authors has a detailed list of what to do if Amazon KDP asks you to prove your publishing rights. The article even lists the other types of documentation that have been used successfully to prove copyright when the preferred documents are unavailable to you as an indie published author. Good info to have on hand to avoid that panic if you’re stuck proving you are—indeed—the creator of the work in question.


How to Get Book Reviews

This is a constant question authors ask. It doesn’t matter where we are in our publishing journey, we are always hoping to gain more book reviews. Written Word Media has an excellent list to follow (both pre-publication and some post-publication efforts that can help you gain more reviews.) https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/how-to-get-book-reviews/

Additionally, here’s a quick video from Sandra Beckwith on "How to Give Readers a Direct Amazon Review Link." It’s important to make writing book reviews as easy as possible and giving readers a direct link to an Amazon review page can be very helpful. 

Understanding Book Distribution Options

Jane Friedman spends some time discussing the different book distribution options that exist in "The Value of Book Distribution is Often Misunderstood by Authors." Even if you think you understand everything there is to know about distribution, take a moment to read this. I found it a helpful refresher and worth the time.


Launching Book 4 in a Series: How I Crushed My Sales Goals

Nick Sullivan walks us through his marketing plan and tasks for his most recent book launch. Super honest and detailed about what worked well and helped him crush sales goals. Nice insight here: https://insights.bookbub.com/launching-book-series-crushed-sales-goals/

‘Immersive Media & Books’ Study: Audiobooks and Context

I found this super interesting! Check out the Panorama Project’s study of US consumer engagement in 2020, including audiobooks, reading, and other entertainment media. https://publishingperspectives.com/2021/07/the-audio-publishers-association-releases-new-2020-panorama-project-covid19/

Best Time to Post on Instagram

I always like to know these things . . . see if this helps you to organize when you post content to Instagram. I was surprised at some of the ‘good’ times.

Happy Writing (editing, marketing, and more!) - Valerie  


Another get selection of articles. I don't know where to start! Thanks, Val!

I know what you mean!! If you can believe it -- it was hard to narrow it down to 25 articles. There were at least 15 more articles that I read but felt were less relevant than these! - Val

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